Juneteenth: Boosting Black Voices.


Today, this Whitey McWhiteperson yields (most of) this space to BIPOC.*

Following are messages I received from two congresspersons I admire deeply. (I helped elect both to Congress by donating as generously as I could during their primary campaigns – where cash really counts – and in the latter case, also by providing intel and oppo research to him and his campaign peeps throughout his successful run to unseat a 16-term incumbent and darling of the Democratic Party.)

First up, Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (MN-5) (emphasis in original):

via email:

Iris,

156 years ago today, Black southerners in Galveston, Texas, finally learned the news of their freedom from enslavement — nearly two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed — now known as Juneteenth.

Earlier this week, I proudly voted in Congress to make Juneteenth a federal holiday. President Biden signed it into law, making it the first federal holiday since Martin Luther King Jr. Day was declared in 1983.

Juneteenth is not only a celebration of freedom but a recommitment to truth, reconciliation, and reparations. This recognition is a small step on the path toward liberation, equity, and justice for Black people in America.

We cannot truly move forward until we reckon with the brutal racism in our country, past and present.

For decades, organizers, activists, and members of Congress have pushed for reparations.

In Congress I’ve co-sponsored H.R. 40 to establish a commission to study the horrific lasting impacts of slavery and make recommendations for paying reparations to the descendants of enslaved people. Reparations are not optional, they are a necessary condition of atonement.

We must also be clear that Black people continue to face racism today, directly and systemically.

That means making a true commitment to ending police brutality, putting an end to systemic inequalities in the form of housing, income, and education, and addressing disparities in healthcare that are hurting and killing Black people. It also means fighting back against the hundreds of attempts from Republicans across the country to pass laws to silence Black voters at the ballot box.

We have our work cut out for us, but on this day I am hopeful. Thank you for reading, and for your commitment to building a more just, equitable America.

In radical solidarity,

Ilhan Omar

__________

Congressman Jamaal Bowman (NY-16) (emphasis in original):

via email:

Iris,

Today is Juneteenth, a historic day that allows us the space to reflect, celebrate, and process the anniversary of the end of slavery. All across the country, Black communities are coming together to celebrate our culture, our history, and our victories.

This Juneteenth is especially historic, because it is the first year Juneteenth is celebrated as a federal holiday. Yet in the wake of this historic day, in more than 30 cities across the country, thousands of teachers and educators organized to protest against new laws that limit discussion around racism and slavery in the United States.

These laws have emerged in places like Texas, Louisiana, New Hampshire, and North Carolina after the murder of George Floyd in Minnesota. When teachers began teaching lessons about systemic racism, schools and lawmakers started to ban these lessons, and banned even broader lessons about marginalized groups and equity.

Our symbolic victory of today is clearly not enough when we have so many people fighting to keep the status quo intact.

That’s why I’ve made it my mission in Congress to cause problems for the  status quo and dismantle the pillars of racism and injustice that continue to wreak havoc on our nation. If you’re with me in this fight, please make a contribution to our movement today so that I can continue this necessary work in Congress.

Even when we take one step forward towards rebuilding and re-envision our country for the better, we have conservative lawmakers and interest groups setting us five steps back.

As an educator, I know far too well the duty our teachers, counselors, and staff have to shape the minds and hearts of our students so that they grow into well-rounded advocates for justice and equality.

It should not be the job of an educator to lie to our students about our country’s history — regardless of the pitiful laws created to force them to. That’s why I’m not only dedicating my time in Congress to bring long overdue symbolic change, but also for concrete and tangible progress for racial equality in our country.

If you’re with me in this fight for true racial justice, recognition, and education — please help strengthen this movement by making a contribution today. Your support will help me fight for the causes and issues that really matter to our communities.

Peace and love,

Jamaal Bowman

via Twitter:

On today’s #JuneTeenth2021, let’s rejoice in our ancestors’ fight for freedom. But let’s also set our sights on what we need to realize their vision of liberation — housing justice, reparations and reconciliation, and equality for every Black American in every zip code.

_________

Next up, Osceala “Ossie” Fletcher, a New Yorker whose story made the cover of the New York Daily News today. (NOTE: I am basically cribbing the whole article out of respect for Mr. Fletcher and his family. But I’ve taken the liberty of bolding a few key quotes.)

 New York Daily News cover June 19, 2021: large print reads "HEALING A RACIST WOUND"; smaller print says: "Black WWII vet, 99, finally gets Purple Heart long denied by bias," accompanied by photo of Osceala "Ossie" Fletcher in military regalia.Long-delayed Purple Heart awarded to 99-year-old Black World War II hero denied a medal due to racism

By Carla Roman and Larry McShane
New York Daily News

The color of his skin denied World War II hero Osceala “Ossie” Fletcher his Purple Heart for nearly eight decades.

The Black U.S. Army veteran, a D-Day survivor wounded three times during his military career, finally received his hard-earned medal Friday at a Brooklyn ceremony where officials acknowledged his bravery went long ignored due to racial inequalities in the nation that he bravely served.

Osceala Fletcher (r) receives a Purple Heart at the Fort Hamilton Army Base, almost 77 years after he was wounded. (GREGG VIGLIOTTI/for New York Daily News)Osceala Fletcher (r) receives a Purple Heart at the Fort Hamilton Army Base, almost 77 years after he was wounded. (GREGG VIGLIOTTI/for New York Daily News)

The former private first class, now 99, collected his medal from U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville during the emotional ceremony at the Fort Hamilton Community Club in Brooklyn.

“It’s about time,” said Fletcher [gosh, ya think? -Ed.], who rose from his wheelchair wearing his full military regalia — including four medals on his chest — as “The Star Spangled Banner” played. “You will remember the Fletcher name now.”

Fletcher was joined by his wife, daughter Jacqueline Streets and about a dozen family members for the long-awaited honor before McConville praised the veteran for his service, noting few of the fighters from America’s greatest generation are still around in the new millennium.

“Ossie has spent his entire life giving to those around him,” said [U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gen. James] McConville. “And well, today is Ossie’s turn to receive and today we are giving him — no, we are delivering something that he’s been entitled to for over 77 years … Today, we pay long overdue tribute for the sacrifices he made to our nation and for free people everywhere.

“Now let’s get you that Purple Heart you’ve been due.”
McConville then pinned the medal on the chest of the war hero struck by German gunfire while delivering supplies as the Allied forces arrived in Normandy on June 6, 1944.

U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer [(D-Wall $treet)] took note of [the presence of a live microphone. PROTIP: never, ever get between Chuckie and a live mic; your life may very well depend on it. -Ed.] Fletcher’s courage in battling both the Nazis and the Army’s racism.

“It’s my pleasure and honor to recognize the sacrifice, courage and strength of character of this loyal New Yorker,” said Schumer. “Ossie, you served this country with distinction and selflessness even while African-American soldiers were treated as second-class citizens.”

The Daily News first reported the military miscarriage of justice two years ago, with Fletcher recounting a journey that began at the old Whitehall St. induction center in lower Manhattan and led to his post on the English Channel. Despite his courage and injuries, he became one of an untold number of Black soldiers denied medals for their service.

 Photos of Osceala Fletcher from his service in the Army during World War II and his time as a sargent in the NYPD (l) were displayed inside the Fort Hamilton Army Base. (GREGG VIGLIOTTI/for New York Daily News) Photos of Osceala Fletcher from his service in the Army during World War II and his time as a sargent in the NYPD (l) were displayed inside the Fort Hamilton Army Base. (GREGG VIGLIOTTI/for New York Daily News)

He sailed to Europe from Portsmouth, Va., aboard a segregated ship where Blacks were forced to stay below deck as they departed for the war. [%@&)$#@! –Ed.] His service continued back home, where Fletcher worked as an NYPD sergeant, a high school teacher and a community relations specialist in the Brooklyn district attorney’s office.

Streets, 66, took on the battle for her father’s recognition seven years ago, firing off nonstop letters and emails about his heroism and his plight. Their efforts to get Fletcher his Purple Heart ran into assorted roadblocks, including the discovery that his service records — including his medical reports — were destroyed in a fire.

“My dad’s a pit bull, and he did not teach his puppy to give up,” said Streets. “Most said this wasn’t possible, which honestly makes it that much sweeter. But that pit bull and his puppy were not giving up.”

She recalled that even family members only learned about their patriarch’s heroism decades after Fletcher returned home.

“It was about 20 years ago that we began hearing about my father’s Army experience,” said Streets. “He’d say it was like the war movies. And as he got older, perhaps feeling more vulnerable, he became compelled to set things straight. To be acknowledged and give the same considerations white soldiers were given at that time.”

The crowd enjoyed a laugh when Streets whispered into her father’s ear that it was time to wrap up as he addressed the audience in French.

“I’m going to take this Purple Heart and give it to one of my daughters to frame and put it in the house,” he said later.

Now that is someone who deserves to be thanked for his service, not just to his racist county, but also to his community as “an NYPD sergeant, a high school teacher and a community relations specialist in the Brooklyn district attorney’s office.”

IRIS ❤️ OSSIE.

__________
*Now if we could just make Election Day a national (PAID!) holiday, we might begin to see some anti-racist visions become reality.

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